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MEDICINE WOMAN

RECLAIMING THE SOUL OF HEALING

Lucy H. Pearce

MEDICINE WOMAN RECLAIMING THE SOUL OF HEALING Lucy H. Pearce WOMANCRAFT PUBLISHING

WOMANCRAFT PUBLISHING

COPYRIGHT AND DISCLAIMER

Please note Medicine Woman reflects the personal experiences of the author. The information provided is intended to complement, not replace, the advice of your own doctor or other health care professional, whom you should always consult about your individual needs and any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention and before starting or stopping any medication or starting any new course of treatment.

Copyright © 2018 Lucy H. Pearce

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law.

Published by Womancraft Publishing, 2018 www.womancraftpublishing.com

ISBN 978-1-910559-338

Cover design, internal illustrations and typesetting by Lucent Word www.lucentword.com

Cover art: ‘Keep in mind’ © Hülya Özdemir

Womancraft Publishing is committed to sharing powerful new women’s voices, through a collaborative publishing process. We are proud to midwife this work, however the story, the experiences and the words are the author’s alone. A percentage of Womancraft Publishing profits are invested back into the environ- ment reforesting the tropics (via TreeSisters) and forward into the community:

providing books for girls in developing countries, and affordable libraries for red tents and women’s groups around the world.

ENDORSEMENTS

Lucy Pearce is a luminous voice in global change – a voice that calls out for a return to balance of the feminine and masculine energies to heal the very world all beings depend upon to continue existing – preferably thriving. Medicine Woman is needed wake up words in a world gone numb.

Paula Youmell, RN, Wise Woman Nurse®, author Hands on Health and Weaving Healing Wisdom

In Medicine Woman, Lucy H. Pearce continues her invaluable work of reawakening the Sacred Feminine and connecting women to their inherent wisdom. Pulling back the curtain on the male-dominated medical model of the current era, Pearce reveals the systematic and intentional suppression of feminine knowledge and intuition, and in doing so invites modern women to reclaim their own healing journey. The Medicine Woman archetype is needed in our culture now more than ever as women awaken to the healing power and potential that lies within each of us.

Amy Bammel Wilding, author, Wild & Wise: Sacred Feminine Meditations for Women’s Circles and Personal Awakening

For my grandmother, Lucy Crocker Pearce – in loving memory and gratitude for being a pioneer in so many aspects of health and community.

For all the women, throughout the ages, who were not treated with the compassion they deserved.

For we who are still not now,

That we may heal ourselves

And the world.

A woman’s journey to healing begins the moment she decides she will no longer abandon herself. Amy Bammel Wilding

When women heal, the world heals. Femme

CONTENTS

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

xi

A Practical Note to the Reader

xiii

OPENING

Collapse on the World Stage

5

Collapse on the Home Front

6

Breaking Silence

8

Speaking for the Feminine

10

To Healing

12

SYMPTOMS: WHAT’S WRONG?

What’s Wrong with Me?

14

What’s Wrong with Us?

27

The Rise and Rise of Autoimmune Conditions

30

What’s Making Us Sick?

36

What’s Wrong with Women?

40

The End of Busy/iness as Usual

42

Reclaiming the Healing Arts

45

Medicine Questions

48

DIAGNOSIS

The Journey to Knowledge

54

Women and Diagnosis

57

Diagnosis: A Cultural Framework

59

Prognosis

61

The Making Real of Sickness

63

WHAT’S WRONG WITH WESTERN MEDICINE?

Sickness and the Patriarchy

72

Ancient Roots

74

Church as Foundation

77

A

Tangled System of Control

79

Doctor/Priest

84

A

Loss of Soul

86

The Medicalisation of Body and Mind

89

A

New God: The Rise and Rise of Technology

91

THE DEATH OF CARE

Sickness – The Last Growth Industry in Patriarchy

94

The Magic Bullet

96

The Death of Care

99

Pain/Killing

101

HEALING ARTS

Mad, Bad, Sad

109

Hushing the Hysterical Woman

111

A

Depressing State of Affairs

115

Witches and Midwives

116

BREAK DOWN

We are the Canaries

121

Why are We Working Ourselves to Death?

125

The System is Broken

126

Crisis Point

128

RELEASING THE NEGATIVE FEMININE ARCHETYPES OF HEROIC MEDICINE

Someone Save Me

137

I Deserve to Suffer

139

The Victim and The Crazy Woman

142

ANOTHER WAY

The Missing Link

146

Turf War

147

No Man’s Land

150

Scattered Pieces

152

Paradigm Shift

153

What Comes Next?

154

INITIATION

Invitation

159

Medicine Woman – A Lost Feminine Archetype of Healing

163

THE SOUL OF HEALING

Decolonising Soul

176

Learning to Listen

179

Healing is Feeling

182

Re-Membering Safety

188

Letting Go

189

The First Step to Healing

192

HEALING THE FEMININE

Woman Healing

208

Caring for Ourselves

212

Cycle Wisdom

217

Midlife/Crisis

225

The Gift of Darkness

227

Getting Stuck

232

RECLAIMING

This is the Time of Reclaiming

243

The Power of Belief

244

Reclaiming Rest

249

Reclaiming Strength

250

Reclaiming Healing Community

252

Changing the Story

255

RENAISSANCE

A

New Normal

270

Between Two Worlds

272

Writing New Narratives

275

Brave Work

278

Embodying Our Healing

280

A

Flourishing of the Feminine

281

The Rise of the New Healers

282

THE HEALING REVOLUTION

288

EPILOGUE

291

APPENDICES

A

Note on Terms

293

Contextualising the System

298

END NOTES

301

REFERENCES

307

INDEX

323

ABOUT THE

AUTHOR

326

ABOUT THE COVER ARTIST

327

WHERE WE BEGIN We begin on the floor of a hospital toilet. A woman lies

WHERE WE BEGIN

We begin on the floor of a hospital toilet. A woman lies prostrated, sobbing from her depths. Her child has just been diagnosed with a life-long autoimmune disease. They need to start medication. Today. There are no alternatives. No cures. The trainee doctor breaks with protocol and strokes the sob- bing child’s hair. The mother has been trying to hold it together through meeting after meeting with doctors and nurses in sterile white rooms as they reel off protocols and facts and potential risks in language she barely understands. She slips away to the bath- room and falls to the floor in prayer, distraught: help us get through this. Make it okay. Please, please, let it be okay. That woman is me. That child is mine. Perhaps she is you. Perhaps that child is yours. Perhaps that child was you. It starts with the little girl whose mother was always sick in bed, and so she learned to be good, to take responsibility for more than her share. She learned to be the one who made things right. She learned to walk on egg shells, to fear what came next, to never trust the good days. She learned not to upset her, not to make her sicker. Believing somehow that her silence would keep her alive. All the while swearing she would never be like her. Until she too ended up sick in bed. That child was me. That woman is me. That child is mine. Perhaps that child was you. It starts in a doctor’s consulting room reciting off symptoms, knowing that there are no answers. They cannot help you, they do not know what’s wrong, or worse they will mark you down in their own language as delusional: the crazy woman, the worried well, the attention seeker, the hypochondriac, the bored housewife, the hormonal, hysterical or menopausal woman… That woman is me. Perhaps she is you, your mother, your sister, your daughter, your friend. This pain is ours. The suffering is real. And it has been going on too long.

OPENING

Something is happening under the surface, Just below the skin. But we dare not look, Because we do not know what we might find. Its presence scares us, Awakening ghosts we would prefer to disappear. We stand at the crossroads between old and new, in the place beyond certainty. Ready – at last – To peel back the bandages and look beneath at the raw wounds. Daring to ask what hurts and why. And how it might heal. Without agenda or guarantees or expertise. With the courage to see What lies beneath. Beneath the bulletproof two-way mirror of our cultural narrative, Into the darkness, the sadness, the pain that we would rather avoid. In through the blood and the nerves, To the soul of sickness.

When I was editing my book, Burning Woman, in the autumn of 2015, I had whole segments that did not fit. All of them were to do with illness, the sickness of patriarchy* and the need to embody the Feminine* in order to heal ourselves and our world. I put them to one side in a folder marked Medicine Woman and left them. It felt too big, too scary, and I far too small to give voice

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to what was wanting to come through. My only mistake, although it was really an insurance policy against my own fears winning out, was to announce this book at the end of Burning Woman. If I hadn’t, or if that book had not turned out to be as successful as it was, I would have backed out of seeing Medicine Woman through a hundred thousand times. As with all my books, I get a title and a knowing of what the book will be, and then I have to live it. This is never my favour- ite part. I have always found life far easier to manage when it is contained within the covers of other people’s books, or figured out analytically, rather than played out in the messy, uncontrolled environs of my own body, mind and daily life. In Burning Woman I birthed my challenge to patriarchal religion and political power. It took every last bit of courage. My adrena- line levels were sky high. I was sick with anxiety, terrified of what the response might be. My life began shrinking as my body and mind could no longer sustain the internal pressure of trying to summon in the new paradigm* whilst inhabiting the old. All the parts of myself that I had tried to suppress, ignore and downplay were coming to the surface once more. I could not run from the truths my body was trying to tell me.

I now know that it was Medicine Woman*, Burning Woman’s

twin sister, arising within me. But still I tried to run. It’s what I’ve always done, you see: I’ve never liked confrontation.

But Medicine Woman had my name on her list. My meeting with her was long overdue. In speaking her name aloud, our ap- pointment was set.

I realised that I had been preparing to write this book for most

of my adult life. I guess that’s why I had forcibly nailed my colours

to the mast this time: I had form in backing out. In my early twenties, after achieving a first class Bachelor’s degree in History of Ideas and English Literature, I wrote (but never sent) several university applications for graduate degrees in disciplines spanning the range of healing and medicine from the alternative to the conventional: Jungian Theory; The History of Medicine; Philosophy, Cosmology and Consciousness to name a

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few. I was wanting something that bridged the worlds of Western* and other medicine. But each time I stepped towards those worlds my fear got bigger: I am not a doctor nor am I wanting to explore these issues in a detached academic manner. I am interested in questioning our current paradigm, understanding the philosophi- cal and historical roots of how we’ve gotten to where we are… and then helping to shift it to something healthier and more fulfilling. But I did not trust that I would be taken seriously. So, I put the applications aside. And trained to be an English teacher instead. Medicine Woman did not leave me alone, however. I continued to read avidly on the subject, writing health and healing related articles for a decade on blogs, magazines and national newspapers. For years I tried to heal theoretically, by reading books, unable to face the pain of the known unknown that waited within. Until the pain was too great and dominated every area of my life. Until it spoke through many of the major biological systems in my body: it was the pain or me that was going to be my everything. One day, shortly before Burning Woman was published, when I was sick in bed once more, two powerful pieces blew my way on the internet within hours of each other – the first, Charles Eisenstein’s “Mutiny of the Soul”, and the second “The Sick Woman Theory” by Johanna Hedva. I devoured them. Grateful for their daring. For their vision. For their medicine. I had been sick for years and deeply frustrated with my body. Not hospital sick. But sick enough to have more days ill than well. These two brave spirits reminded me that it was time to embody the healing that I had skirted around for so long. That it was okay to write about it on a more personal and philosophical level. It was okay to question the paradigm we are inhabiting. It was okay to share a vision without having all the answers. In fact, it was more than okay: it was necessary, and urgently so. Not only for myself but all the other incredible people who inhabited the land of the sick: this was much bigger than just me. In my own life I had begun to get braver in confronting my illness, in trying new healing modalities in a concerted effort to finally figure out what was wrong and get better. I was reading voraciously for my own health and healing and as I traversed the

MEDICINE WOMAN

healthcare system I realised that this was a journey I was not walk- ing alone. Like all of my books, Medicine Woman was written as I navigated new terrain in my life, as an offering to myself and all those who might need a companion on a path that is not well-illuminated by our culture.

Each of my books is like a string of prayer beads, threaded with longings, pain, wisdom, poetry and stories of a hundred voices. Each is less a book of answers than a book of questions: a creative weaving of evidence and ideas into the articulation of a dream of how things could be better. It is unapologetically rooted in my own embodied reality and intuitions. My approach has always been to speak from the first-person perspective of the traveller and from the timeless dimensions of the soul, whilst fully grounding my words in a sound foundation of the history of ideas, my undergraduate subject and life-long passion. I call this Living Philosophy. My books are rooted in the wisdom of many voices, especially female, from across disciplines and cultures. Central to each of my books are the experiences of other women: a living, breathing cir- cle of women who are living the material that I am writing about. You will find their words woven through the book. When I put out the call online, almost forty women from around the globe gathered to form our original Medicine Woman circle in minutes. I observed in awe as they started to speak: the soul of the book shone through their words. A book they had never read… because it had not yet been published. Medicine Woman, the themes and words that I had already noted down, were flowing from their mouths.

I was on the right track. She was real.

I felt humbled and grateful for their openness, for their trust.

For many of these women it was the first time sharing so openly about their illness. It was magical to observe how healing spon- taneously arose from within themselves when they started to tell their stories, when they began to hear the words of other women and share resources. They felt deep in their bones, perhaps for the first time, that they too were not alone in their suffering. Their

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conditions may have isolated them from their family of birth, their work, friends, partners or children, but here in the words of other women was belonging. Acceptance. Healing. New ways forward. It was then that I saw just how dangerous silence is to women’s health. And I recognised the true power of words to break the spell of patriarchy and begin the Feminine healing process.

COLLAPSE ON THE WORLD STAGE

As we focused on our personal healing in this private Facebook group, the world around us seemed to be falling apart, its daily mon- strosities being shared and anguished over on my Facebook feed.

Whatever your political persuasion, I think you will agree that the intensity and turbulence of the last couple of years has been unprecedented in our lifetimes. Our communities have become deeply fractured and furious from the fall-out from Brexit, #me- too, the US 2016 election and unprecedented political interfer- ence, which have spun Western democracy into far darker, more uncertain places than we have been for a long time. They added fuel and impetus to the fires that were already burning: the massive increase in global terror attacks, the refugee crisis, endemic racism, state brutality, animosity between and within nation states… Why write a book about sick women, when the world was fall- ing down around our ears, I wondered? What use was it to write

a book of hope, when all around services were being cut, when

cultural and economic meltdown were in full flow? But then I realised that the two were intimately connected. I, like so many of us who are empaths or who suffer with mental health issues, found myself struggling against the tide, dealing with the enormity of inhabiting a culture on fire. I noticed how many people on my Facebook feed were having mental and

physical health episodes: it was like an explosion of bodies and minds breaking down in synchrony with the last throes of patri- archy. Marriages were collapsing around me. Suicides everywhere

MEDICINE WOMAN

Something big was going on in the collective consciousness. Our bodies were freaking out at what our minds were trying hard to block out. Our bodies were not just speaking, they were shrieking. Our systems were collapsing in lockstep with the System*. Some people would recommend that the cure to this anguish is to get off Facebook and stop watching the news. But not knowing doesn’t stop it happening. And not everyone is privileged enough to turn off the news: it is their unliveable, lived reality.

COLLAPSE ON THE HOME FRONT

Life wasn’t just collapsing online or elsewhere, but on the home front too. During the writing of this book my family – both within my home, and extended family – experienced more health issues than ever before. Over the space of 18 months, four out of five of my immediate family received diagnoses of life-long conditions. Several members of our extended families were hospitalised for major health issues. We were left reeling as health disaster after disaster floored many of us in unison, knocking out our support systems, our ability to work, our children’s ability to be in school, disrupting our lives beyond recognition and draining our finances and energy

I entered this journey thinking it was to be my personal journey

to take at my own pace. Thinking that healing would hopefully be a story of redemption, love and light. But having successfully avoided and evaded it all my adult life, when I committed to it, it took me down. And hard.

I thought that healing was a reasonably linear path – you find

the Truth about what is wrong with you, then you find the Right Path and then you follow it. This may sound simplistic, especially from someone who has spent the best part of twenty years reading about health and healing. But that is what we are sold, by each doctor, each book – follow this protocol, follow it to the letter and you will be cured. We are sold the promise of the cure. The

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failing when we don’t receive it is ours, because we didn’t follow the advice to the letter (and to be honest who could?). I could not have anticipated how complex the healing process would be – how it would impact so many members of our family simultaneously, how it would shake us to our roots so firmly. I got to learn firsthand that the healing process is multidimensional – not only including body, mind and soul* but generations liv- ing and dead and unborn, the wider world, the local community and of course the System. It is as complex as solving an invisible Rubik’s cube with your hands tied behind your back, which also has temporal dimensions, where each shift impacts all other pieces of the puzzle in unforeseen ways.

Our healing journey over the past two years has encompassed over 50 medical professionals, within both public and private systems, including: family doctors, clinical psychologists, physi- otherapists, a psychotherapist, occupational therapists, a dietician, hospital consultants, consultant registrars, many psychiatrists and nurses of many stripes. It has included a veritable alphabet soup of alternative therapies: acupuncture, aromatherapy, art therapy, Body Talk, cannabis oil, cognitive behavioural therapy, cranio- sacral therapy, dietary changes, EFT (tapping), equine therapy, exercise, herbalism, homeopathy, massage, meditation, mindful- ness, physiotherapy, psychotherapy, reflexology, rock balancing, sensory processing activities, support groups, women’s circles,

and many, many different pharmaceutical medications

writing

swallowed, injected and spread on the skin. We have received free state healthcare and accessed expensive private care, we have filled in form after form after form for referrals and assessments and state benefits.

Without the writing of this book I am not sure I would have been able to process it all. Medicine Woman has been a form of therapy in its own right, to help me, and us, navigate the unknown and find our way towards healing on many levels, beyond that of- fered by the doctors who have worked so hard on our behalves and yet had so little to offer. We have witnessed the best and worst of what the current medical system has in its bag. And our lives have been crippled by its failings. But nobody died.

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Medicine Woman was written on the journey of healing: rooted in the reality of our lives, in the midst of the fear, the uncertainty, the not knowing what will happen, who to trust or what would work. It has been finished many times at many different points in the journey: each time coming to a different conclusion. Writing it has been a way of excavating hope from hopelessness, meaning from meaninglessness and trying to stay connected with the deeper layers of transformation under the daily chaos and overwhelm that so often felt too much to bear. Sharing our story is a tricky thing. We are real people living in a world where these things are not necessarily talked about. We live in a small community of people I have to see face-to-face, and in global community of seven billion strangers all connected by the internet. I wanted to be careful to respect my family’s privacy, and therefore much of what we have gone through is only alluded to, as theirs are not my stories to tell. In breaking my silence I also break some of theirs. I have tried to do this as unobtrusively as possible whilst also being honest. I hope they, and you, feel I have done this respectfully.

BREAKING SILENCE

One of the core lies of patriarchy is that our suffering is our fault as individuals. It should be borne in silence, so as not to bring others down. When in truth sickness is all around us all the time. It runs down family lines and through communities, it runs along rivers and is carried in the air. Illness – mental or physical – is very rarely an individual thing. It is a deeply human thing, and the shame and fear we carry in silence is an obstacle to our healing. I need you to know that the fear of speaking up is still big for me. It has stalled this book many times. Again and again the words have dried up. My body has frozen with the fear of breaking the conspiracy of silence that I have been indoctrinated in from all sides in order to be a Good Girl, to stay safe, to wait for permission to speak. A permission that will never come from the System that I need to critique. A permission that can only come from within.

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I am aware that what I write may be strange to you. Challenging. Unprovable. Uncomfortable. The chances are that at some point this book is going to piss you off. Perhaps it already has.

Because what I say or the way I say it will not be exactly what you want to hear. And as a woman I should, our culture tells us, not be offensive or aggressive. I should seek to please you, appease you. To speak one’s subjective truth in one’s own raw voice is still subversive. To do it as an unqualified woman doubly so. To speak

as a sick woman

The voice of illness and disability is discomforting to our world, and so it is systematically silenced in deference to the objective, logi- cal, scientific, sterile patriarchal narrative with which we are more familiar and comfortable. We tend to prefer advocates and charities to speak on behalf of sufferers in cleanly polished corporate-speak. To ensure the safety of our cultural narratives, we deny other ways of healing, speaking and knowing. From lived experience I have learned that as a heretic and dreamer the requirements of perfection and omniscience are high. I ask your patience and understanding as I pull this vast dream into less than perfect words. There is often an overwhelming desire in many who are in- vested in the System to immediately defend it. If you work within Western medicine, or are religious, please know that my argu- ment is with the historical edifices of patriarchy, with unproven prejudice masquerading as Absolute Truth and the Systemic repercussions of this. I am not attacking you as a person. Not your spiritual beliefs. Not your community. Not your heartfelt work for humanity. In these aspects I think you will find us kindred spirits. For those who have escaped the System (or are trying to), there is often a desire to skip the darkness of the past and jump with both feet into the warm fuzzy hope of healing, so that we can reach the promised land of happily-ever-after. I must warn you now, this book offers no seven-point plan to happily-ever-after. If this is what you are looking for, you may find the first part of this

don’t even bother.

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book especially challenging, as it takes us down into the pain that you are trying to avoid by looking at what has gone wrong for us as individuals, as a culture and within Western medicine. Please beware of skipping ahead because it feels too dark or depressing. Or putting the book down because we do not immedi- ately see eye-to-eye. Trust that you and I and Medicine Woman are here for a reason. Something called you here. Hold that above the discomfort you might feel on the journey and dare to dive deep with me.

I believe that we have to see what we have been blind to. We

have to hear what we have closed our ears and minds to. We have to start where we are, in order to heal.

That is our shared intention. Let us hold onto that together.

SPEAKING FOR THE FEMININE

Why focus exclusively on women? What about all the men? I am regu- larly asked. They are sick too, I am told. As though I don’t have a beloved husband, father or son who are sick too. As though I don’t have three brothers. And countless male friends, each fighting their own health battles in this world. Don’t you care about them?

I care deeply. And much of what I write is applicable to all

genders. Much of the healing we need is because we are human, inhabiting a broken, inhumane System. But I want to dedicate my energy to breaking the silence and in- visibility that has been used to deny the reality of women’s lives and experiences, historically and systematically. I want to make space for women’s perspectives. Women’s experiences. Women’s bodies. Women’s voices. Women’s suffering. Women’s stories. Women’s sickness. I want to give voice to a vision of a world that honours us all. I want to make sacred space for the experience of being a woman in this world, and especially for the sick women in a sick world. It is to this lack that I write. Bodies have always been problematic: culturally, philosophically and biologically in their reluctance to be constrained by the sim-

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plicity of words. Women’s bodies even more so. I know that there are many who wish to move beyond the binary terms of man and woman, masculine and feminine, and into the fullness of gender fluidity in infinite forms. I am open to the freedoms and possi- bilities that this new paradigm may hold. I embrace the rights and needs of each individual to be respected as it emerges. And yet, there remains the fact that the paradigm we inhabit is still, and has historically been, gendered. Bodies have belonged, and still do, in the clear majority, to two sexes. My heart is in it for all of us to find health. We cannot heal one sex and not the other. But our histories have been so different, our bodies are different, our gendered roles are still different. And I’m sick and tired of women being told that we’re equal, so stop whin- ing, when it suits society, yet in underhanded, subtle ways being told we are weak, crazy, hysterical hypochondriacs in a world that doesn’t understand our bodies and tends to be less able to treat them when they are sick. What I and countless other women have found as we have strug- gled with our health is that there are often few who can see us, few who will speak for us, few who really understand what is going on in our bodies and minds. And when they do there is little they can do for us. Because our sickness is a gendered problem. Many times in this book you will find ways that I have general- ised the experience of ‘woman’ or ‘man’ that do not apply to every person of that gender that you know. That may not relate to you. In the act of writing and being able to speak some truths that I have not heard spoken before, generalisations will be made. Please know I do not claim to speak for you. I cannot speak your truth. Only you can. And I encourage you to do so. I am one woman, with one perspective. It is my intention that in speaking my truth I hold space for you to speak yours, so that this new cultural nar- rative is woven from many, many voices that have previously been marginalised. In breaking my silence my dearest wish is that I make it a little easier for you to break yours. You will notice that I share the voice of the Feminine in many ways: through personal journal-like entries and poetry, as well as the voices of other women, alongside the more familiar non-

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fiction elements of prose and footnoted factual research. Some of these forms of expression may make you uncomfortable – I know they can still make me feel that way. You may also experience a felt sense of jarring as you shift gears between one part of your knowing and another that these forms engender. Please know this is intentional. I believe all ways of knowing – intuitive and free- flowing, linear and logical – are needed. This is the underlying premise of this book, of all my work. But we are not used to this. And so it can seem strange.

To give voice to the Feminine – those values and qualities which our culture has attributed to females, considered of less impor- tance to dominant masculine values – and to speak for the female body and soul is usually pretty unpopular and unfashionable for a whole host of different reasons. It is to centre the subjugated, speak the unspeakable and to break with orthodoxy. It is to ques- tion the accepted narrative of the dominant System in an unfa- miliar language. It is to try to name the invisible miasma within which we exist. To do so is to risk being branded crazy, ridiculous, irresponsible, irrelevant or hysterical. It is a risk I am prepared to take.

I know it would be easier for those invested in the System if this

book could be dismissed as the ramblings of a crazy lady, rather

than a harbinger of truth.

I leave it to you to decide.

TO HEALING

Medicine Woman speaks to healing on many levels. It is a narra- tive of my own healing journey and a handbook to emotionally and practically support the healing of others. It does this not just through providing insight or information, but through using words as medicine: narrative itself as a medium for healing and creativity as a mode for transforming pain. If Burning Woman was a declaration of the power of a woman’s spirit, Medicine Woman is a woman’s declaration of independence

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over her own bodymind*: an outrageous reclaiming of our power to heal ourselves. I thought this was a book about why we were getting sick, but far more it is rather a book about redefining and reclaiming our lives and our health. It is a call to power for women to stand up for ourselves within the System and help to co-create a healthier system. It is not intended as a wholesale rejection or refusal of Western medicine. Rather it is a refusal of the continued su- premacy of the hallowed, unquestionable institution of patriarchal medicine that is philosophically, financially, energetically and ecologically unsustainable in its current form. My speaking out has already caused ripples of healing within my communities. And with the publication of this book, I hope these ripples will spread further. That through these words, the dream of something big and brave and new may reach us all. That it may inspire and bolster our work for a culture in which healing is more humane and holy. For me, for you, for our children, for the generations to come, and for the world which is our home.

SYMPTOMS: WHAT’S WRONG?

WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?

Somewhere I lost myself.

I lost the beat of my heart as my own drum.

I have a sense that it was the same time I lost Medicine Woman. One day my soul slipped out of my body. Or maybe it was pulled too hard. Or shocked away.

I don’t know.

All I know is that I lost her, And have been sick ever since.

An orphaned child

In a world that does not feel like home.

I have been wandering

Lost…

Wondering…

Where do you go when your body is broken?

Who can you call on when your mind is shattered into a thousand

pieces,

When your skin is on fire and your soul is nowhere to be found?

These thoughts spin around my head in the quiet of night when I lie awake too frazzled to sleep.

What’s wrong with me? Who can help me?

I try to take each day at a time, but my mind races forwards. I am sick of being sick, but I can see no way out. The sting of not

Symptoms: What’s Wrong?

being believed, of being thought to be a hypochondriac, is worse than if something’s seriously wrong.

I am not as sick as many. I should be grateful for all I have. I

start to list my blessings: a warm home, a loving partner, three

children, a good education, work I am passionate about, food in the fridge, all my fingers and toes, a car, enough money in the bank for the next few weeks, a safe community in a safe country…

Focus on the positives. Be grateful.

I am. I know none of these things are to be taken for granted. I

am immensely privileged. This is part of the reason I give myself such a hard time. I think of all those around the world suffering in much worse ways than me. People dying of cancer, in wars, of AIDS, of malaria and typhoid, people being beaten and tortured and starving…

But their greater suffering does not eliminate mine. I am not imagining it. Something is most definitely not right within me.

What’s wrong with me?

I try to keep it to myself. Sometimes (often) I type my symp-

toms into Google. I ask friends. Read books. Try herbs. Exercise. Vitamins. Meditate. Read some more. Mostly I just try to put the pain and exhaustion to the back of my mind. Pop a painkiller and carry on as usual: school runs, gro- cery shopping, panic attacks, play-dates, work, migraine, laundry, hospital trips, art… Then after months and months of going through it in my head, when I’m feeling particularly brave or disturbed or bewildered or broken, I find myself sitting in a chair in a small white room, with a pot plant on the desk beside the computer, asking my doctor.

What’s wrong with me?

I have huge liking for my doctor, he’s a champion of breastfeed-

ing and homebirth in a conservative system that is suspicious of both. He’s a kind man with a big heart who knows what it’s like to be dealt a hard hand. But in the rushed moments we have together

MEDICINE WOMAN

he can barely get the smallest grasp on the complex tapestry that is my health. We both know there is little that he has within his power to treat or cure me. But still I come to him for answers to the question that plays on repeat in my mind.

What is wrong with me?

I long for a simple solution. For a magic bullet. A cure. A label so that I know what I’m dealing with and can explain to others what my life is like on the inside. A magic wand would be nice. Something, anything, to make me better. But he has none. Just a caring manner, another battery of blood tests that come out okay- ish – a little low on this and a little high on that, but nothing to get excited about. Nothing conclusive. Nothing serious. Nothing. Apparently.

What’s wrong with me?

He is scratching the surface, missing all the knotted complexi- ties of trauma and genetics and my childhood medical history in another country. Unable to see the various layers of the sickness in his tests. He writes a prescription. Even though we both know I probably won’t take it. He is trying his best to help, not know- ing what he’s really treating. Knowing that his medicines work for some and not others. And usually not for me. His medicines usually make me sicker. Really sick. Scary sick. And so I am caught in limbo. There’s nothing he can treat with what he has available to him. He holds no cures for me, but my bodymind insists something is wrong.

What’s wrong with me?

And so I turn elsewhere, encouraged by friends and acquaint- ances who have lost faith in the System. We don’t have enough money to try a full immersion in alternative therapies, I do not trust anything too woo-woo anyway. I need my alternatives to be grounded in evidence not wishful thinking. I cannot afford to take time from work for constant appointments. And so I dip my toe in here and there.

Symptoms: What’s Wrong?

Some recommend visualisations and affirmations as they work on my aching muscles and joints and prescribe their own tinctures and tablets.

I can heal myself.

I pronounce, as I stand in the firelight, believing, hoping, for that moment, that the New Age folks are right. Maybe my sick- ness is all in my mind. Maybe I can just think myself better.

I can heal myself.

My illness had just been bad thinking. Weakness. Victim men- tality. Low vibrations. Just a story I had been telling myself. I could consciously let go of it and be free. All I had to do was choose to be healthy. Think positive. Focus on the good. On love and light.

I am healed.

I declare. Waiting for the thunderbolt. Trying desperately to

imagine golden light coming down from above, my roots deep in the soil…

I am vibrant. I am healthy. I am strong.

My back is aching. Legs are shaking. Heart racing.

I am vibrant. I am healthy. I am strong.

Where the medical profession cannot find anything wrong, practitioners in alternative health fields say that everything is

The problem is… your gut microbiome. Negative thinking. Hormone imbalance. Lumbar subluxations. Chi blockage in your liver. Energetic frequencies in your home. Parasites. Mineral defi- ciencies. Candida overgrowth. Your subconscious.

All these assertions are possible… but not provable. So I have to choose whether to put my trust and my money in their hands or not. It all feels like stabbing in the dark. And I just want to know what this is for sure … and get better, at last.

MEDICINE WOMAN

What is wrong with me?

Perhaps sickness was just my way of hiding from the world. Of getting pity from others. Or wanting to be special. People had said variations of these things to me over the years. Just like they had to my mother before me. I could get better just as soon as I made the choice to. The power to heal was my own decision.

I am vibrant. I am healthy. I am strong.

For most of my childhood there was always something wrong with her. The minor things took her attention, the major things seemed to slip under the doctors’ radars. She never had any real answers. Just constant questions that her body inhabited as illness.

I have the power to change.

I grew up swearing I would not be like her, whilst constantly

being sick. My father couldn’t bear me being sick. Something about this weak state made him deeply uncomfortable. Death and he were always uncomfortable bed-fellows. He wanted me to be active and outgoing, confident and positive: brave, strong and fearless like him. He regularly pointed out to me that I was just like my mother when I was sick. This was never a good thing. They got sick of each other early on. My world split in two at the beginning of my life. Two lands, two homes, two worlds. I was always scared on a level beyond words that they would get sick of me. That my problems would become A Problem. So I hid them as much as possible. Learned to keep things to myself (though they always spilled out in unbidden tears). Tried to be strong. To carry on. To push myself.

Don’t be needy.

I am strong and healthy.

Symptoms: What’s Wrong?

it as best I could. Until my sick self got bigger and bigger and I could no longer hide it under the bed during the day. I could not function any more and took to my bed during the day.

It’s all in my mind… it’s all in my mind…

I have many of the same issues my mother had. And that made me really mad. Because either I was recreating her existence sub- consciously: I had learned how to be sick, it was all in my mind, just like it was with her. Or maybe, and this was worse, there was a lot wrong with me, and had been with her, and medical science didn’t get it. Couldn’t see it. We were invisible to them. Our suf- fering illusory.

I create my own reality.

And then my daughter started presenting with certain struggles, which the doctors and teachers didn’t recognise, but I did. They thought we were imagining it. Told us so. Again and again. Three generations. Maybe more. Disbelieved. Suffering.

There’s nothing wrong. Nothing. Wrong. Nothingwrongnothing- wrongnothingwrong.

It’s all in your mind.

Focus on the positive.

What I struggle with is multifarious and shifting: depression,

anxiety, sky-high stress levels, panic attacks, migraines, long-term lower back and pelvic problems, exhaustion, itching skin, regular swollen glands, severe brain fog, almost constant low-grade infec- tions, chronic digestive issues, joints that shift painfully out of place on a regular basis when yawning or sneezing or getting out of bed or having sex or walking on uneven ground, high choles-

terol, cold body

and did I mention exhaustion? And anxiety?

What’s wrong with me?

Life overwhelms me on a daily basis. Normal is what I have

MEDICINE WOMAN

always pushed myself to be, to achieve, but have fallen far short of. I can’t do normal life the way most people seem to be able to. And these last few years have not been normal by anybody’s

parameters. The levels of stress that we have been living under on

a daily basis in our family home have been unbearable. But still

I have tried to carry on. Taking the blame for being sick. Taking

the blame for my kids being sick. Trying to hold it all together. To keep the show on the road. Working harder and harder and harder to sustain an appearance of normality.

There’s nothing wrong. Don’t make a fuss.

I find being sick all the time deeply frustrating. Where my mum

had spent most of her life devoted to us kids and the home, sick and overwhelmed, I wanted more. I wanted to be an artist, a crea- tive entrepreneur like my father and uncle, not just confined by motherhood. I built a career as a writer. We built two businesses. To the outside world it looked like I had it sorted. I was driven. Getting successful.

It’s just I was always in bed. Sick.

There’s nothing wrong. Don’t make a fuss.

But I wasn’t going to let sickness stop me. So I worked from bed. Refusing to give in to the weakness of my body. Angry and frustrated at myself. Caged in by anxiety and exhaustion. Running on fear and adrenaline. Trying to outrun my sickness. Not know- ing how to get better. Not knowing what was wrong or who could help me.

I was sick of being sick and wanted to be able to dive into my

life.

What’s wrong with me?

It wasn’t a new thing. I have been sick all my life, with regular

long-distance trips to expensive ear, nose and throat specialists as

a young child. Constant antibiotics. When they failed a dairy- free diet and nasty tasting herbal remedies were my normal. Homeopaths and osteopaths a common day out for me. I was

Symptoms: What’s Wrong?

always sicker than others. Not dying sick, I’ve never had an opera- tion, just not well. But certainly not imagining things. Colds and flu and tonsillitis and gastrointestinal bugs are not figments of the imagination – they go around families and social groups. And I al- ways seem to get every one. And get it hardest. Prozac was recom- mended at sixteen. The Pill was prescribed for acne and fainting and hormonal issues too. Later beta blockers. Anti-depressants. Anti-anxiety medications. Lots of antibiotics. Pills but no answers.

What’s wrong now?

I am thirty-seven. Sickness peaks again. I am bone tired. I have nowhere to turn. I am so angry. At myself. At everyone. And so I do the only thing I have never done. The thing I have never been able to afford to do: stop. Drop everything. (Well, as much as I can as a self-employed mother of three with no childcare can.) And really listen to my bodymind. Dare to look into the dark places I have been avoiding. Dedicate myself to compas- sionately unravelling the mystery of my body’s full story, with love and patience and care. Giving myself the time and space I need to heal. Building the team of healing allies I need to help me find the answers that have lain hidden. In the midst of feeling ill, I feel desperately alone. But on the days I feel a little weller, I notice I am not. Why are so many women – women supposedly in the prime of life – sick? And tired. All the time.

What’s wrong with us?

There is a massive community of sick women: playing body detective, reflecting on the meaning of what is happening, looking for hope, for healing, for allies, for a broader definition of well- ness. Having to abandon our old lives and finally listen to our bodies insistence that…

Something’s wrong.

In our bodies, in the world. For years we have felt powerless. Ashamed. Alone. Unsure of

MEDICINE WOMAN

how to proceed, who to trust. Scared that we will be shamed for our sickness, for our inability to get better.

Something’s wrong.

It seems we have imbibed the story of Cassandra subconsciously. You may never have heard her legend before in your classroom or at your grandmother’s knee, I certainly hadn’t. But we know it in our bones. Cassandra was a woman who was gifted by the god Apollo with the ability to prophesy. She spoke aloud what was going to hap- pen. But no one believed her prophecies: they were too disturbing to the comfortable reality of those around her. And so she was confined to the care of a warden, driven mad from being disbe- lieved. Again and again she warned them…

Something’s wrong. Something’s very wrong.

But they did not listen. They could not hear. The painful irony was that it was not really the truth that people could not heed. It was that it came through the body and voice of a woman. That was unbearable. You see, Cassandra instructed her twin brother in the power of prophecy. Unlike his sister, people believed him. People listened to him when he said:

Something’s wrong. Something’s very wrong.

We are the Cassandras of our world, gifted with highly sensitive bodies that are feeling what the System would have us ignore. We have been taught to distrust our own body systems, to distrust our inner knowing, to hand over their care and definition to the experts. We have grown up seeing the women around us consistently disempowered, sick in body or soul, heart or mind. Hearing their suffering dismissed, in big ways and small. Witnessing their physi- cal and emotional needs go unrecognised and unmet for genera- tions. We have grown up feeling alienated from our own bodies, embarrassed or ashamed of them, not at home in our physical

Symptoms: What’s Wrong?

selves. We have learned to turn down our emotional responses. We have silenced ourselves, blamed ourselves, punished ourselves. We have internalised the message that there’s something wrong with us, rather than there is something wrong. Listen carefully.

Something is wrong. Something’s very wrong.

It is time for us to change the story. And it starts with us.

is time for us to change the story. And it starts with us. I’M FINE You

I’M FINE

You ask me how I am, and I say: fine. Under fine lies this… I just managed to do a solo work trip away – my first event in two years because of anxiety.

Can I do it?

The month before the trip I was ill in bed more days than not. I didn’t think I’d be able to do it, but the tickets were booked and people were expecting me.

I have to do it.

On the first two days of the trip I work through Medicine Woman with my structural editor and have a massive panic attack as we dig into the trauma that lies below it. I drive a couple of hours through a city I have never driven before and set up my book stall at the conference.

I can do it.

The next day I do the stall and my first public talk in years. I set off home the day after. On the ferry I sit elated. Proud of myself.

MEDICINE WOMAN

And then my neck starts to tense, head to ache – a migraine is hitting in. The ferry crossing is rough, people around me are vom- iting. I take painkillers and feel really nauseous but put it down to the migraine and the storm. I lie down and try to sleep. Just before arrival I vomit again and again. The last call for drivers to go back to their cars is sounding. My legs are shaking and I’m sobbing. I get into the car to start the last leg of this mammoth eleven-hour journey. There’s just two and a half hours to go, it’s getting dark, I just want to be home. To collapse.

I can do it…

Waves of nausea hit me as I drive, the car lights disorienting me. I open the window, breathe deep, focus on the countdown of the satnav timer. I don’t want to be a sick woman by myself in the dark on the side of the motorway.

I can do it…

I make it home and say hello as I run past into the bathroom

and vomit until my stomach is empty again. Feeling guilty that my body is so weak. That I’m being a bad mother after several days away. All I want is to go to bed.

I’m done.

I vomit through the night and delegate work for the day. My

lower back and hip ache is building to a crescendo, my hypermo- bile joints flaring because of pre-menstrual hormone levels. My stomach cramps and aches each time I try to eat or drink. I hear tension brewing downstairs and so begins an hour of calming a meltdown. And then another the next morning. I am exhausted and shaking.

I can’t do it.

I have to do it.

Today is the online launch of our new book. I do it from the comfort of bed with the electric blanket up high to soothe my ach-

Symptoms: What’s Wrong?

ing joints, grateful once again that I am self-employed. Wishing once again that I could have a paid sick day. I flick between Internet browser windows, anxiously checking the news to see if World War Three has erupted. I manage to secure an emergency physio appointment, she puts me back into place but bruises me massively in the process.

I get my period, feeling dull and sad and heavy. The whole of

my lower body aches. I spend the rest of the day in bed working, with a hot water bottle on my belly to ease the pains, getting up when the kids are home from school to do homework and dinner.

I’m done.

The next morning I wake super-early from anxiety dreams, have a panic attack as silently as I can in the bathroom without waking the house. Another morning, another meltdown. School uniforms, packed lunches…

I try to go for a gentle walk on the beach with my husband but

my body is too sore, and I have to turn around after five minutes.

I can’t do it.

Day three of my period. I wake with a splitting headache, do breakfasts and school lunches, go back to bed when the painkillers don’t work. I attempt a little work and prepare for our mother- daughter circle this evening. On the way home one daughter twists her ankle badly. Ice, painkillers, kids to bed, tooth under pillow. I wake in the middle of the night with a migraine. Again. I take painkillers. Again.

I’m done. Properly, completely, absolutely done.

But I’m not. I’ve been asleep for an hour when our diabetic child wakes vomiting. I sit up with them till 4am – clearing vomit, piling up soiled sheets, disinfecting surfaces, reassuring, sooth- ing, checking blood sugar levels. I wake in the morning with the migraine still blaring. Re-check daughter’s ankle for breakage. Just a sprain. More ice. More painkillers. Phone the hospital needing support in managing child’s type 1 diabetes with vomiting bug

MEDICINE WOMAN

and am required to phone back hourly to check in with the nurse. I continue checking ketones and blood sugars, administering flu- ids, trying to stave off hospitalisation. It doesn’t work.

Help!

We head to the emergency room. Drip for fluids. Home again. Dinner. Everyone decompressing after the stress. Meltdowns. Tears. Hugs. Bed.

I’m so far beyond done I no longer know who I am.

The tooth fairy didn’t come again and Santa is borderline suicidal. You ask how my week was. This is how it was. And this is not unusual. This is my life. So you ask me how I am, and I smile weakly, and I say, Fine Because you do not want to hear this tale of woe, because there’s nothing you can do to make it better, because it sounds too much. It is too much. Because depending on your relationship with me, telling you will make me into a moaner, a victim. Or it will make me unreli- able. Unprofessional.

I cannot tell you the details, because sickness should be borne

privately, unless it is life-threatening, and still then, it should be whitewashed, kept secret.

I cannot tell you because you want to hear the victory tale of the famous author who just went on an exciting work trip. Not the human woman who is sick and crumbling.

I cannot tell you because I don’t want to burst into tears and

make a scene in public. There’s nothing that you can do to make it better. Nothing I can do. We each have our own struggles, our own cross to bear. And so you ask me how I am.

Symptoms: What’s Wrong?

And I avert my eyes and say fine. And try to smile. Sometimes it works. And sometimes when I try it in the psy- chiatrist’s chair, and she tries to push past fine, it doesn’t. I am unable to find the words, the tears stream down my face, I start to rock and hyperventilate. She asks if someone died. No one died. Everything’s fine really. Except it’s not.

I am so done with this. With everything. I cannot carry on, can- not live like this anymore.

I have lived my whole life behind the mask of fine. Most of us have. It is what is expected of us, needed of us.

Fine, nothing to see here.

Fine, let’s get off this uncomfortable subject.

Fine, let’s carry on as normal.

We don’t know how to deal with the mess, the discomfort, the hurt, the trauma behind the carefully crafted persona. Until one day the mask is ripped away. And fine is no longer possible. Sickness finally forces us to drop the performance of superficial strength. It requires us to stop being who we were pretending to be, who we wanted to be. It insists that we, at last, be who we are. Once the mask has gone, healing can begin.

MEDICINE WOMAN

WHAT’S WRONG WITH US?

The world around me is failing, But they can’t see. They say that everything’s normal, And there’s something wrong with me.

If we want to heal, and heal deeply, we need to take some time to explore honestly what is going on underneath the superficial performance of normality – individual and collective – to see how things really are and how we got here. This is not an approach we are comfortable with or used to in our quick-fix society, which is captivated with papering over the cracks, rather than examining root causes. When we turn up at our overflowing doctors’ surgeries and emergency rooms we are treated as individuals: considered anoma- lies of ill health within a healthy context. We are not. That is our first, and rather crucial, mistake. And it’s one I know well, from personal experience. You see, when I started out, I thought this book was about what was wrong with me, why I was failing at wellness. I was angry and confused: I am intelligent, well-educated and well-resourced, I try to live well and take care of myself, but still I am sick much of the time. But I realised I was far from alone in this. The women that I know in real life and social media, who are some of the long-term sick of the world, are also some of the most clever, creative, in- spiring, compassionate, loving, hard-working, visionary people I know. They are sick, but they are not the losers that our culture insists that sick people are. They are not stupid or uneducated. They are not living extreme lifestyles or bringing their sickness on them- selves. No, they are relatively privileged and wealthy in historical and global terms. They are not slackers, spongers, attention-seek- ing fantasists or hysterical. They are bold and brave and strong and caring. And totally ex-

Symptoms: What’s Wrong?

hausted. They are good people who do good things in this world… but who find it hard to live in it because of its damaging effect on their systems. There are a lot of us in this boat. Women who are sick. Sick and not getting better. Unable to live the way we are. Despairing. Alone. Undiagnosed or undiagnosable by our doctors. Untreated or untreatable by Western medicine. And this is deeply frustrating. Because Western medicine has been an incredible boon for humanity in general in so many ways:

treating previously untreatable conditions very effectively from many cancers, to broken bones, to reconstructive surgery and transplants. Anaesthesia, analgesics and antibiotics have length- ened our lifespans and reduced suffering. In terms of life-saving and acute medical treatment I would rather live today than at any other era in human history. I am deeply grateful for it. But beneath the radar of massive advances in medical science and technology, there is a silent global epidemic, one that is rarely reported with panic: the fast-growing number of chronically ill women of the Western world. Despite an ever-increasing arsenal of medications and operative techniques, despite our collective wealth and extended lifetimes, chronic illness has become the new norm. Particularly amongst women aged 30-50. In many cases these illnesses are not immediately life-threaten- ing, but they are life-changing: draining the energy, resources and abilities of the sufferers and profoundly impacting their daily lives. These women who are – or “should” be – working, creating, child- bearing, child-caring, elder-caring, community building, thriving are instead exhausted, bed-ridden, house-bound and debilitated. But there is no outcry. Instead as our numbers increase, the doctors’ understanding of the causes of these illnesses and how to treat them remains static and the cures seem stalled.

MEDICINE WOMAN

MEDICINE WOMAN A NEW LIFE Night becomes wakeful, daytime a blur. Unencumbered by the milestones of

A NEW LIFE

Night becomes wakeful, daytime a blur. Unencumbered by the milestones of work and meals to tether it, time runs like a river, whilst standing firm like a mountain.

Sick time is not clock time, but an alternate binary reality of

Pain/no pain.

Pain/no pain.

Pain/no pain.

You take on a new nationality: patient.

Impatient, you long

For your citizenship of this strange land to be revoked

To return home

To food that tastes right and words you can follow.

Instead your new terrain takes you from one side of your bed to the other. Outer seasons and weather are replaced by the ravages of inner storms and the landscape of pain. Your energy no longer gushes like a newly bored oil-well but is measured in spoons.

Some of us fall through the unseen cracks in the world of health on a bright summer’s day through a run-in with machine or microbe, like Alice down the rabbit hole. Some of us were born this way. And some find out that our genes have hidden within them a ticking time bomb. Waiting. Silently.

However we got here, we find ourselves, unwillingly inhabitants of the state of sickness. Our papers for the world of health have been rescinded without notice. Though we all know logically that the land of the dead will be our final resting place, its halfway house, the state of sickness, always seems a surprise. We were not taught its customs, its ways.

We never thought we would have to make this our home.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This book was only possible because of those who walked this path before me. I want to pay heartfelt tribute to my way-showers on this jour- ney: Johanna Hedva, (“Sick Woman Theory”), Charles Eisenstein (“Mutiny of the Soul”), Christiane Northrup (Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom), Kat Duff (The Alchemy of Illness), Eve Ensler (In the Body of the World) and the many, many others whose work is referenced here. Your powerful writings crystallised for me so many themes that I had been contemplating and living through for most of my adult life. Seeing your courage to confront this topic gave me the permission to finally give voice to my own ex- perience. I am deeply indebted to your valuable, pioneering work. Thank you. My grandmother Lucy H. Crocker Pearce, a natural philosopher and early female science graduate, whose passion for biology, edu- cation and books took bloom first in the Pioneer Health Centre in Peckham, London in the 1930s, and later amongst friends, family and seemingly everyone her life touched. My greatest sadness is that I never got to meet her and never got to see the Peckham Centre. But I carry her name and her spirit. And her passion for health and cultural transformation lives on through all who knew her. I have been lucky enough to be connected directly to it through my parents and my friendship with her co-worker, Elizabeth, a dear friend now in her nineties, who has taught me so much about living well through her own quiet example. My own dances with healthcare providers have flagged up Western medicine’s immense failings and contradictions as well as many deeply compassionate souls who work within its aegises –

MEDICINE WOMAN

in hospital emergency departments, inpatient wards, counselling rooms, making appointments, healing with medicine, hands and herbs. I have been blessed by many dear people who have walked beside me in a professional healing capacity and have remained hu- man throughout this journey. Thank you to my real life medicine men and women: Trish, Ines, Jean, Kenny, Conor, Hugh, Seamas and Shirley for consistently going above and beyond, for your in- telligence, care and compassion, for showing me what healthcare can and should look like within and beyond the System. To my women’s circles: my women’s group that has been my safe space for a decade. And my newer circles: Beth Wallace’s women’s cir- cles, Cork Aspergers Women’s Group and my many Facebook tribes. To the brave and inspiring women who heard the call on Facebook and gathered as part of the Medicine Woman group, who shared their stories and insight, and who cheered this book on: Kerry Bray, Maddie Millet, Zoë K.M. Foster, Joanne, Lolly Viv Willows, Patrícia Lemos, Ciara Ryan Gerhardt, Joy Horner, Paula Youmell, Michelle Callaghan, Rosie Slosek, Helen, Anna- Maybritt Lamberth, Diana Sette, Bridget Robertson, Lucinda Button, Florence Vion, Tamsin Hopkins, Tess, Charlotte Alling, Ashlee Symington, Aramei Dracharys, Sophie de Carvalho, Sophie Mortimer, Heather Veitch, Anne, Jo Gough, Becky Annison, Marlene Pray, Therese Doherty, Emma Weatherall and Melissa Brown. And to Lewis Barfoot, who gave me massive insight into both sides of the coin. To my trusted beta-readers: Amy Bammel Wilding, Mary Tighe and Paula Youmell for saying yes. For reading this freshly born book and being brave enough to tell me how to make it better. And to all my generous endorsers. Tracy Evans, my space holder, idea bouncer, co-conspirator, soul guide, fellow wanderer, resident wise woman and best friend. We did it! My parents, siblings, husband and kids who have stood by me through thick and thin. Given me space when I needed it, looked after me in my ups and many, many downs, and who have at times been sick and struggling alongside me these past couple of years. We are on this journey together. I am so glad to have your company.

Acknowledgements

To all the women who, over the years, have read my books, sup - ported my work, believed in me and cheered me on. Who have allowed my words to unfold in their own lives and have trusted me with their stories and secrets in return. To each and every one of you who has made contact to enquire when this book would (finally) be ready: here it is. This is for you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ABOUT THE AUTHOR LUCY H. PEARCE is the author of numerous life-changing non-fiction books for women

LUCY H. PEARCE is the author of numerous life-changing non-fiction books for women and a vibrant artist of lost ar- chetypes of the feminine and spiral forms. Several of her books have been Amazon #1 bestsellers around the world, includ- ing the Nautilus Silver award-winning Burning Woman – an incendiary explora- tion of women and power – written for every woman who burns with passion, has been burned with shame, and in another time or place would be burned at the stake; The Rainbow Way:

cultivating creativity in the midst of motherhood and Moon Time:

harness the ever-changing energy of your menstrual cycle. An award-winning, first-class graduate of Kingston University with a BA in History of Ideas and English Literature, and teaching graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, Lucy’s work is dedicated to supporting women’s creative, empowered, embodied expression through her writing, teaching and art. Her writing – spanning from pregnancy and birth, parenting, women’s health and creativity – has appeared internationally in mainstream and alternative publications. She is a regular speaker and guest teacher on online events. A mother of three, she lives on the coast in East Cork, Ireland, where she runs Womancraft Publishing – creating life-changing, paradigm-shifting books by women, for women – with her husband. You can find an archive of her blogs, interviews and articles, dis- cover upcoming opportunities to learn with Lucy, and subscribe to her newsletter at: www.lucyhpearce.com

ALSO BY LUCY H. PEARCE

Books

Full Circle Health: integrated health charting for women (Womancraft Publishing, 2017) Full Circle Health: 3-month charting journal (Womancraft Publishing, 2017) Burning Woman (Womancraft Publishing, 2016) Moon Time: harness the ever-changing energy of your menstrual cycle (Womancraft Publishing, 2015) Reaching for the Moon: a girl’s guide to her cycles (Womancraft Publishing, 2015) Moods of Motherhood: the inner journey of mothering (Womancraft Publishing, 2014) The Rainbow Way: cultivating creativity in the midst of motherhood (Soul Rocks, 2013)

E-courses – see www.lucyhpearce.com:

WORD+image Be Your Own Publisher

Contributor to:

Your Authentic Voice

Structuring the Soul of Writing

Demystifying The Artist; The Power of Ritual; Naked Money, Eli Trier (2018) Goddess: When She Rules: expressions by contemporary women (Golden Dragonfly Press, 2018) We’Moon Diary – La Luna (2018), Fanning the Flames (2019) (Mother Tongue Ink, 2018-19) Earth Pathways Diary (2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019) Moon Dreams Diary 2018 (Womancraft Publishing, 2017) If Women Rose Rooted: a journey to authenticity and belonging – Sharon Blackie (September Publishing, 2016) She Rises: how goddess feminism, activism, and spirituality? Volume 2 (Mago Books, 2016) Wild + Precious: the best of Wild Sister magazine, Jen Saunders (Wild Sister, 2014) Tiny Buddha’s Guide to Loving Yourself, Lori Deschene (Hay House, 2013) Roots: where food comes from, and where it takes us (BlogHer, 2013) Musings on Mothering: an anthology of art, poetry and prose, Teika Bellamy (Mother’s Milk Books, 2012)

ABOUT THE COVER ARTIST

ABOUT THE COVER ARTIST HÜLYA ÖZDEMIR is an illustrator and painter of watercolour portraits. Born in

HÜLYA ÖZDEMIR is an illustrator and painter of watercolour portraits. Born in Istanbul in 1972, she has been living in Bodrum, in the South Aegean for three years. One of the ‘The Printemps des Artistes’ (The Spring of the Artists) artists, she has had two solo exhibitions and has partici- pated in two group exhibitions for charity. Her art has appeared on magazines and books around the world. Although she focuses on predominantly female portraits, she does not set any restrictions on her drawings. What guides her is the understanding that a woman is a person who still struggles to exist in a male-dominated society, imprisoned in a role based on maintaining norms of society: tradition, morality, and family triangles, as an asset whose desires, vulnerabilities and worries of- ten do not reflect her own feelings. In her artwork we see women becoming increasingly self-confident, re-establishing their human identity, as the artist enriches the exposition of these inner worlds with patterns.

WOMANCRAFT PUBLISHING

Womancraft Publishing was founded on the revolutionary vision that women and words can change the world. We act as midwife to transformational women’s words that have the power to chal- lenge, inspire, heal and speak to the silenced aspects of ourselves. We believe that:

books are a fabulous way of transmitting powerful transfor- mation,

values should be juicy actions, lived out,a fabulous way of transmitting powerful transfor- mation, ethical business is a key way to contribute

ethical business is a key way to contribute to conscious change.

At the heart of our Womancraft philosophy is fairness and in- tegrity. Creatives and women have always been underpaid. Not on our watch! We split royalties 50:50 with our authors. We work on a full circle model of giving and receiving: reaching backwards, supporting TreeSisters’ reforestation projects, and forwards via Worldreader, providing books at no-cost to education projects for girls and women. We are proud that Womancraft is walking its talk and engag- ing so many women each year via our books and online. Join the revolution! Sign up to the mailing list at womancraftpublishing. com for exclusive offers and find us on social media:

com for exclusive offers and find us on social media: womancraftpublishing womancraftbooks womancraft_publishing
com for exclusive offers and find us on social media: womancraftpublishing womancraftbooks womancraft_publishing

ALSO FROM WOMANCRAFT PUBLISHING

BURNING WOMAN

Lucy H. Pearce

A breath-taking and controversial woman’s journey through history - personal and cultural - on a quest to find and free her own power. Uncompromising and all-encompass- ing, Pearce uncovers the archetype of the Burning Women of days gone by - Joan of Arc and the witch trials, through to

days gone by - Joan of Arc and the witch trials, through to the way women

the way women are burned today in cyber bullying, acid attacks, shaming and burnout, fearlessly examining the roots of Feminine power - what it is, how it has been controlled, and why it needs to be unleashed on the world in our modern Burning Times.

A must-read for all women! A life-changing book that fills the reader with

a burning passion and desire for change. Glennie Kindred, author of Earth Wisdom

MOON TIME: HARNESS THE EVER-CHANGING ENERGY OF YOUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE

Lucy H. Pearce

Hailed as ‘life-changing’ by women around the world, Moon Time shares a fully em- bodied understanding of the menstrual cycle. Full of practical insight, empowering resources, creative activities and passion, this book will put women back in touch with their body’s wisdom.

Lucy, your book is monumental. The wisdom in Moon Time sets a new course where we glimpse a future culture reshaped by honoring our womanhood journeys one woman at a time. ALisa Starkweather, founder of the Red Tent Temple Movement

by honoring our womanhood journeys one woman at a time. ALisa Starkweather, founder of the Red

FULL CIRCLE HEALTH:

INTEGRATED HEALTH CHARTING FOR WOMEN

Lucy H. Pearce

Welcome to Full Circle Health. A creative approach to holistic health for all who love planners, trackers and bullet journals to guide and support you in a greater under- standing of your physical, mental and emotional health.

not,

Whether

menstruating

or

mental and emotional health. not, Whether menstruating or pregnant or post-partum, Full Circle Health provides a

pregnant or post-partum, Full Circle Health provides a highly flex- ible, deeply supportive way of tracking your health, whatever your current health conditions.

WILD & WISE: SACRED FEMININE MEDITATIONS FOR WOMEN’S CIRCLES AND PERSONAL AWAKENING

Amy Bammel Wilding

The stunning debut by Amy Bammel Wilding is not merely a collection of guided meditations, but a potent tool for personal and global transformation. The meditations beckon you to explore the

powerful realm of symbolism and archetypes, inviting you to ac- cess your wild and wise inner knowing. Suitable for reflective reading or to facilitate healing and em- powerment for women who gather in red tents, moon lodges, women’s circles and ceremonies.

This rich resource is an answer to “what can we do to go deeper?” that many in circles want to know.

rich resource is an answer to “what can we do to go deeper?” that many in

Jean Shinoda Bolen, MD